Have you ever hated a book that kept you awake all night? Has a book you didn’t enjoy ever brought you to tears? An author’s job is to make you cry, make you laugh, and make you late for work.
Fiction writers deliberately encourage us to see the world through someone else’s point of view, or experience characters’ emotions in a visceral way — and that’s the essence of empathy.”
Consider the statement: “I know how you feel.” While separate, our models of the world have to be similar enough for us to agree on pretty much all factual information. Red is red, after all. Maybe what you and I perceive differs, still we agree it’s red.
But feelings? Theory of mind is a form of internal mimicry that begets empathy and empathy is all-powerful in culture, art, and, ultimately, morality. The sensory excitations we experience from stories, music, paintings, even architecture and engineering, can resonate in our minds in such a way that we respond with visceral intimacy.